Qantara Qantara

Large chandelier of the Qarawīyyīn Mosque

  • Title/name : Large chandelier of the Qarawīyyīn Mosque
  • Production place : Fez medina, Morocco
  • Date / period : AH 600 / AD 1204
  • Materials and techniques : Bronze and copper alloy
  • Dimensions : diameter 2.25m; weight: approximately 1750kg

The large chandelier in the Qarawīyyīn Mosque in Fez is one of the masterpieces of Islamic chandelier making. Its origins go back to the extension and renovation of the Idrisid sanctuary carried out by the Zenete princes with the support of the Umayyad caliphs of Spain. In 1204, under the reign of the sultan Almohad Muhammad al-Nāsir—as shown by two inscriptions engraved on its stem—it was replaced by a larger one, because bronze was added to the result of the melted down chandelier. The qādi and faqīh Abū Muhammad ‘Abdallāh ibn Mūsā executed the project using money from the Mosque’s habous[1].

This chandelier hangs by a long stem from the intersection of the ribbed dome of the axial nave and the bay linking Bāb Salihin to Bāb Seba lawyat. The latter comprises moulded toruses, a hexagonal prism, two openwork balls, and jar-holders. On the surface of the cone-shaped chandelier’s body are twelve continuous tiered lines that support the oil jars, with a total of 327 jars. The border of the base plate of this cone is crowned with sawtooth merlons.

The lower section of the object is dodecagonal with each side punctuated with twelve small rectangular panels adorned with openwork floral decorated arches separated by brackets that are attached to the plate in tiers and terminate at the base in hanging candleholders.

The chandelier’s interior is fitted with a ribbed dome with twelve sections. The intersection of these twenty-four ribs converts the panels into triangles and dissymmetrical lozenges that are decorated with fine openwork floral motifs.

Apart from the rich floral decorations that consist of a wide range of simple and double palm leaves, the Qarawīyyīn chandelier bears a collection of friezes that are mostly in slender and flexible cursive script combined with floral elements, and sometimes in an elegant and decorative kufic script.

For H. Terrasse, the Qarawīyyīn chandelier was the largest and most extravagant of medieval Islamic chandeliers and the second oldest chandelier attributed to Hispano-Moresque craftsmanship, after the Taza masterpiece. It had tremendous influence on similar liturgical objects during later periods, especially in the Marinid era.

NOTE

[1] According to Ibn Abi Zara, it cost 717 silver dinars and 2.5 dirhams to make this object.

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REFERENCE BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abdelhadi Tazi, Jamia al Qarawiyine, t. 1, Beyrouth : Édition Dar alkitab allubnani, 1972.

Terrasse, H., « La mosquée Al Qaraouiyine à Fès », in Archéologie Méditerranéenne, III, Paris : Kline Ksieck, 1968.

Terrasse, M., « Le mobilier liturgique mérinide », in Bulletin d’Archéologie Marocaine, t. X, 1976, Rabat, p. 185-208.

Al-Andalus, the Art of Islamic Spain, (cat. exp. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972), New York : Harry N. Abrams, 1972, n° 55, 58.



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